The civil rights movement had many pioneering moments. Amongst those moments was the first lunch counter sit-in. To protest against segregation, four courageous and passionate North Carolina A&T students took initiative, making a huge step toward racial equality. On February 1, 1960, four men David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. (now known as Jibreel Khazan), and Joseph McNeil sat at a Greensboro, NC Woolworth‘s. Sparking a spirit of non-violent protest within young people everywhere.
Today we had the had the honor and absolute pleasure of meeting one of those audacious men, Franklin McCain.
Upon our participation in a heart-warming march with the members of Shiloh Baptist Church in Mocksville, NC, we attended a celebration in memory of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. There was beautiful song by a neighboring church choir, and inspirational speech given by the legendary Franklin McCain himself. My personal favorite part of the memorial service was singing the Black National Anthem. Singing a song that fills my spirit with pride in my black heritage, and creates a humility that has been felt throughout this trip as we have visited the various civil rights landmarks made my day.
After thanking the Shiloh church members for their kindness and hospitality, we interviewed Mr. McCain. His words were of great wisdom and his spirit was one of consciousness and humility. As he spoke about his experience with the sit-ins, he mentioned that him, and the other three gentlemen involved, stayed up late the night before planning and getting ready for the next day. When he spoke of his feelings as he sat at that lunch counter, he expressed that he wasn’t scared or nervous about the protest because he was too angry.
Franklin McCain is a man of great faith and it reflected through many of the things he spoke about. His beliefs, that all men are created equal, and ethics gave him the inner strength to continue his participation in the sit-ins. To prepare for what seemed like a long journey ahead, he knew that remaining silent and keeping in mind the teachings of his heroes, his mother and Gandhi, that he would be okay. “I want to see true democracy and equality in this country.” For that very reason, he was willing to give his life for his principles and beliefs. He was willing to consistently, day after day, remain non-violent and silent while white people poured milk and salt on his hair, burned cigarette butts on his neck and be pushed and shoved. With McCain’s feet grounded in his beliefs of racial and social equality, he was confident that his actions during that time would one day influence great change in the future of America.
“I knew that we would have a black president someday…but I was 99% sure that it would never happen in my lifetime”. McCain is ecstatic about Barack Obama’s presidency. However, he believes that people should not have too many expectations of Obama. “Just because a black man was elected president doesn’t mean that we have to stop.”
I have always been a woman of great faith and I have internalized each and every experience since day one in Memphis. I, much like Franklin McCain, believe in a peaceful world and that we are capable of living hate-free lives. In the Akan language of Ghana, the term Sankofa means to fetch back in order to move forward. In order for us to truly understand our future, we must go back and reflect on the past. McCain spoke on the importance of preserving historical civil rights landmarks by saying that they are symbols of hope. We have to look at not only the brave young men and women who sat at those lunch counters, but the men, women and children who marched, protested, sang, and spoke words of inspiration. Once we look at them, then we can allow ourselves to use them as an example, much like McCain saw Gandhi, who came years before him, as an example for strength, bravery, and passion. Ashe’.
Peace and Blessings,
Angela A. Hughes